How long should I give a company to respond to my complaint?

By | July 19th, 2010

Two weeks — that’s the short answer. From the time you receive the form letter that says “thank you for your inquiry” it should take no more than that to receive a meaningful response. Often, it takes far less.

So if it’s been more than 14 days, it’s time to restart the process. But there are a few exceptions to the rule.

1. If you called. Phone calls are difficult to track and easily fall through the cracks. While most major companies have systems in place to respond to calls, they tend to be less reliable. The two-week rule still may apply to their response time goal, but as a practical matter, you may never hear from the company again.

2. If you sent an email to an individual. Emails sent to an individual instead of through a form aren’t tracked by the company’s automated system. So by not using a form, you could delay your response time. By the way, an email sent to an individual is almost always better than phoning the company.

3. If you wrote an inappropriate letter. If your email contained obscenities, threats or if you failed to tell the company how to resolve your problem, it might get ignored. Time to try again.

The two-week rule has some exceptions from a company’s side, too. For example, after this spring’s volcanic eruption, several airlines had a backlog of more than a month in responding to legitimate written complaints. You should expect a reason for the delay to be noted in the company’s response.

So assuming the company hasn’t gotten back to you in two weeks, what now?

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Don’t call. Send another email through its online form. If another two weeks passes, it’s time to contact a manager.

(Photo: Kasaa/Flickr Creative Commons)